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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Batman

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton
Director: Tim Burton
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 126 Minutes
Release Date: June 1989
Genres: Action, Kids, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

Tim Burton is an imaginative filmmaker with an obsession for the visual aspects of films, especially the darker motifs. After his quirky 1988 movie BEETLEJUICE starring Michael Keaton, in 1989 he resurrected the BATMAN series, which was last seen in the 1960s TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. As the lead, Burton again cast Keaton, but the script by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren has a Robin who is AWOL.

When reviving a series or a movie, there should be an idea of what new can be said. Burton's vision was that he wanted a dark Gotham City and little more. Anton Furst's Academy Award winning sets are massive monuments to nothingness. They are ugly without form or purpose, but they do create just the right mood of hopelessness and despair that Burton wanted. (An experiment worth making would be to turn off the sound and see if the movie has just about as much impact, which it probably would.) BATMAN is a celebration of form over story.

Keaton's Batman is serious and broody. His would-be girlfriend, Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), provides a plastic beauty. The chemistry between Keaton and Basinger never becomes believable. Batman is too cerebral to care, and Vale too untouchable to really get involved. Regardless of what transpires, their love appears like little more than unconvincing flirting.

The show drags along until Jack Napier, played by Jack Nicholson in one of his lesser performances, tangles with Batman and loses. The resulting accident destroys Napier's looks so he comes back as The Joker, a guy with a clown's make-up. ("Wait 'til they get a load of me," he brags.)

The Joker gets most of the film's few good lines. "The pen is truly mightier than the sword," he proclaims after killing someone by throwing a pen into his throat.

Other than the comic book story and the sets, the only other things else worth seeing are Batman's toys. Chief among these is his gadget laden Batmobile.

If Franz Kafka had ever made a comic book, it would undoubtedly resemble this version of BATMAN - dark and depressing, but holding a certain undeniable fascination nevertheless.

BATMAN runs too long at 2:06. It is rated PG-13 for its cartoonish violence. My son Jeffrey, age 8, liked it, but not nearly as much as his favorite, BATMAN FOREVER. As much as I admire the technical details of the film, I cannot recommend the movie, but I do give it ** for its visual impact.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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